8 Most Affordable Cities in the US

ALEX W. | August 28, 2023

In the face of an impending recession and growing financial concerns, pursuing higher financial security has become a paramount mission for many Americans. With housing affordability declining, many individuals and families are setting their sights on new horizons, seeking refuge in more budget-friendly havens nationwide. 

In 2022, a significant surge in relocations was attributed to the mounting pressure of finances and soaring expenses, leaving many to ponder a change of scenery. However, 2023 and beyond are expected to offer hope for those yearning for a more affordable lifestyle as uncertainty settles. 

With the housing market projected to attain newfound stability, the dream of relocating to an affordable city becomes increasingly attainable. From charming small towns to bustling metropolises, we will explore where dollars and sense converge, showcasing eight cities that offer a fresh start and a promising future. 

So, fasten your seatbelts and join us on this enlightening adventure through America's most affordable cities!

Father with his kids in an affordable city

What are the Most Affordable Cities in America?

When contemplating a move to a new city, the cost of living naturally tops the list of considerations. However, beyond the financial aspect, several other factors play pivotal roles in determining the ideal place to call home. As the real estate landscape shifts and opportunities for remote work continue to grow, here are some key factors that individuals and families take into account:

  • Proximity to Friends and Family: The allure of being close to loved ones can significantly impact the decision-making process.
  • Location and Climate: The charm of a city's surroundings and its climate can greatly influence one's quality of life.
  • Access to Schools and Amenities: The availability of quality education, healthcare, parks, and other amenities are crucial factors, especially for families.
  • Cost of the Move Itself: Relocating can be expensive, and this cost is carefully weighed when considering a new city.
  • Prospective Employers: Job opportunities and the potential for career growth are essential considerations, even in an increasingly remote work-friendly world.

The cities in our article have caught the attention of those seeking affordability without compromising on the essential aspects of life. In this exploration, we uncover the unique allure of these cities and how they exemplify the perfect blend of economy and opportunity, providing an enriching foundation for a fulfilling future.

Considerations for Selecting the Most Affordable Cities in the U.S. 

Compiling a list of the most affordable cities requires careful evaluation and consideration of various factors influencing the cost of living and overall affordability. We sought to identify cities that strike a harmonious balance between economic viability and a high standard of living. 

When determining the most affordable cities for our article, we considered key factors very similar to those we shared earlier about the things people need to consider when contemplating a move:

  • Cost of Living Index: The cost of living index serves as a critical yardstick in gauging the overall affordability of a city, factoring in expenses like housing, groceries, utilities, transportation, and healthcare.
  • Housing Costs: Housing expenses are a significant portion of an individual's budget. Cities offering affordable housing options played a pivotal role in shaping the final list.
  • Employment Opportunities: Diverse and stable job opportunities are vital, as they contribute to residents' financial security and well-being.
  • Access to Amenities: Cities providing essential amenities such as healthcare facilities, educational institutions, recreational areas, and public transportation were favored.
  • Quality of Life: Factors like crime rates, environmental quality, and cultural attractions were assessed to gauge each city's overall quality of life.

City # 1 - McAllen Texas

Nestled in the southernmost region of the Lone Star State, McAllen, Texas, shines as a beacon of affordability amidst the vast landscape of American cities. 

The cost of living stands at an impressive 14% below the state average and a remarkable 21% lower than the national average. Housing in McAllen, TX proves to be a major draw for residents, with prices a striking 45% cheaper than the U.S average. While utilities may be slightly higher at approximately 6% above the national average, McAllen, TX still offers significant savings overall. 

Key Factors Contributing to McAllen's Affordability:

  • Low Housing Costs: The real estate market in McAllen offers a range of affordable housing options, from cozy apartments to spacious single-family homes, making it an attractive prospect for first-time buyers and those looking to upgrade their living arrangements.
  • Economic Stability: With a burgeoning economy driven by industries such as healthcare, retail, and agriculture, McAllen provides ample employment opportunities, supporting residents in maintaining financial stability.
  • Thriving Job Market: The city's strategic location near the Mexican border fosters thriving cross-border trade, contributing to a robust job market with diverse employment prospects.
  • Favorable Tax Environment: Texas boasts no state income tax, and combined with McAllen's low property taxes, residents can enjoy the financial benefits of living in this tax-friendly city.
  • Affordable Lifestyle: In addition to housing costs, everyday expenses such as groceries, transportation, and healthcare remain reasonable, further enhancing the city's overall affordability.

Unique Offerings and Attractions in McAllen, Texas:

  • International Flavor: Positioned near the U.S.-Mexico border, McAllen boasts a rich cultural tapestry with influences from both sides of the Rio Grande. Residents enjoy a diverse culinary scene and various cultural festivals and events.
  • Bountiful Nature: Nature enthusiasts find solace in the city's abundant green spaces, such as the McAllen Botanical Gardens and Quinta Mazatlan, offering serene spots for relaxation and outdoor activities.
  • Retail Therapy: For shopaholics, McAllen's retail scene is unparalleled, with La Plaza Mall and the nearby outlets enticing visitors with an array of shopping options.

City # 2 - Harlingen, Texas

Nestled in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley, Harlingen, Texas, stands tall as a shining example of affordable living. With a cost of living that impressively sits 16% below the state average and an astounding 23% lower than the national average, Harlingen beckons individuals and families seeking a budget-friendly haven without sacrificing comfort and convenience. Key Factors Contributing to Harlingen's Affordability:

Key Factors Contributing to Harlingen's Affordability:

  • Affordable Housing: Harlingen's real estate market offers an array of budget-friendly housing options, with prices approximately 39% cheaper than the U.S average, making it an attractive prospect for homebuyers and renters.
  • Cost-Effective Necessities: Harlingen delivers significant savings on everyday necessities. Groceries are approximately 22% less expensive than the national average, and clothing costs are equally favorable, adding to the city's allure.
  • Thriving Economy: The city's growing economy, driven by industries like healthcare, agriculture, and manufacturing, is pivotal in providing residents with stable job opportunities and financial security.
  • Proximity to Mexico: Harlingen's proximity to the Mexican border fosters economic growth and cross-border trade, further boosting the city's financial viability.

Unique Offerings and Attractions in Harlingen:

  • Historical Charm: History enthusiasts can explore Harlingen's rich heritage at the Harlingen Arts and Heritage Museum and the Hugh Ramsey Nature Park, offering a serene escape into the past.
  • Birdwatching Paradise: Nature lovers flock to Harlingen for its world-class birdwatching opportunities at the nearby Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge and the World Birding Center.
  • Cultural Festivals: The city's vibrant cultural scene comes to life through annual events such as the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival and the Harlingen Art Night.

City # 3 - Kalamazoo, Michigan

Located in the southwestern corner of Michigan, Kalamazoo stands as a delightful oasis of affordability in the region. The cost of living is an impressive 22% lower than the national average, Further, housing expenses in Kalamazoo are impressively 49% lower than the national average, while utility prices remain 3% lower than the national average. Transportation expenses, including bus fares and gas prices, are also 7% lower than the national average.

Key Factors Contributing to Kalamazoo's Affordability:

  • Affordable Housing: Kalamazoo's housing expenses stand out, being approximately 49% lower than the national average, presenting numerous affordable options for both renters and homebuyers.
  • Utility Savings: The city offers an additional financial advantage with utility prices approximately 3% lower than the national average, contributing to lower monthly bills for residents.
  • Transportation Cost-Effectiveness: With transportation expenses like gas prices and bus fares being 7% lower than the national average, residents can enjoy budget-friendly commuting options.
  • Job Opportunities: Kalamazoo's diverse economic landscape provides residents with access to various job opportunities, supporting financial stability and growth.

Unique Offerings and Attractions in Kalamazoo:

  • Arts and Culture: Kalamazoo embraces a rich cultural scene, with renowned institutions like the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra offering many artistic experiences.
  • Brewing Heritage: The city boasts a thriving craft beer scene, with numerous breweries that have earned Kalamazoo the moniker "Beer City, USA."
  • Outdoor Recreation: For nature enthusiasts, Kalamazoo offers abundant outdoor recreational opportunities at places like the Kalamazoo Nature Center and the Kal-Haven Trail State Park.

City # 4 - Memphis, Tennessee

Situated along the banks of the mighty Mississippi River, Memphis, Tennessee, exudes a warm and welcoming atmosphere, offering a remarkable blend of affordability and southern charm. With a cost of living that stands at an inviting 13% lower than the national average, this lively city entices individuals and families seeking a budget-friendly and culturally vibrant destination. 

Key Factors Contributing to Memphis's Affordability:

  • Cost-Effective Housing: Memphis's housing expenses are an impressive 20% lower than the national average, providing a diverse range of affordable living options.
  • Utility Savings: The city's utility prices present another financial advantage, which is approximately 9% lower than the national average and contributes to reduced living costs.
  • Budget-Friendly Transportation: Transportation expenses, including bus tickets and gas prices, offer a welcome respite, being 7% lower than the national average, making commuting more cost-effective.
  • Abundant Job Opportunities: Memphis's flourishing economy presents residents with various employment options, fostering financial stability and growth.

Unique Offerings and Attractions in Memphis:

  • Musical Legacy: Memphis is renowned as the birthplace of blues music, and visitors can explore iconic landmarks like Beale Street and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music.
  • Culinary Delights: The city's vibrant food scene tantalizes taste buds with its renowned barbecue joints and soul food restaurants, offering a delectable journey for food enthusiasts.
  • Rich History: History buffs can immerse themselves in Memphis's past by visiting landmarks like the National Civil Rights Museum and Graceland, the former home of Elvis Presley.

City # 5 - Wichita Falls, Texas

Amidst the vast expanse of the Lone Star State, Wichita Falls, Texas, shines as a prime example of an affordable city with a high quality of life. With the cost of living 9% lower than the national average, Wichita Falls beckons individuals and families seeking an economical yet comfortable living experience. 

Key Factors Contributing to Wichita Falls' Affordability:

  • Affordable Housing: With housing expenses approximately 19% lower than the national average, Wichita Falls offers a range of budget-friendly living options for residents.
  • Grocery Savings: Grocery prices in the city are notably 10% lower than the national average, providing a significant financial advantage for residents' daily needs.
  • Cost-Efficient Transportation: Wichita Falls boasts transportation expenses, including gas prices and bus fares, which are 2% lower than the national average, making commuting more affordable.
  • Competitive Utility Costs: Though utility prices are 11% higher than the national average, the overall cost of living remains favorable due to other economic factors.

Unique Offerings and Attractions in Wichita Falls:

  • Parks and Outdoor Recreation: Nature lovers relish the city's abundant parks and outdoor spaces, such as Lucy Park and Lake Wichita, offering scenic spots for relaxation and leisure.
  • Sheppard Air Force Base: Home to Sheppard Air Force Base, Wichita Falls proudly honors its military community and heritage.
  • Downtown Revitalization: The city's downtown district has undergone revitalization efforts, creating a vibrant hub of shops, restaurants, and cultural events.

City # 6 - Jonesboro, Arkansas

Serenely situated in the heart of northeastern Arkansas, Jonesboro is a testament to affordable living with a touch of Southern charm. With a cost of living that proudly stands 4% lower than the state average and a remarkable 11% lower than the national average, Jonesboro entices individuals and families seeking an economical yet comfortable lifestyle. 

Key Factors Contributing to Jonesboro's Affordability:

  • Affordable Housing: The city offers a remarkable 29% cost advantage in housing expenses compared to the U.S average, making it a promising prospect for residents seeking affordable living options.
  • Budget-Friendly Utilities: With utility prices approximately 4% lower than the national average, Jonesboro provides residents with cost-effective living solutions.
  • Healthcare Savings: Healthcare services, including doctor check-ups and dentistry, cost approximately 20% less in Jonesboro than the national average, offering significant financial relief to residents.

Unique Offerings and Attractions in Jonesboro:

  • Historical Heritage: History buffs can explore Jonesboro's rich past at the Arkansas State University Museum and the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum, offering insights into the city's cultural and historical legacy.
  • Natural Beauty: Jonesboro is surrounded by picturesque landscapes, with nearby Crowley's Ridge State Park offering opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy hiking and scenic beauty.
  • Education and Culture: The city hosts various cultural events and festivals, including the Delta Symphony Orchestra's performances and exhibitions at the Bradbury Art Museum.

City # 7 - Toledo, Ohio

Known as the "Glass City" due to its deep-rooted glass-making industry, Toledo stands as a shining example of affordable living with a touch of industrial charm. Situated near major Great Lakes metro areas like Detroit and Cleveland, the city offers residents a budget-friendly lifestyle with easy access to neighboring economic hubs. 

With a cost of living that proudly stands 16% lower than the national average and housing expenses remarkably 50% lower than the national average, Toledo entices individuals and families seeking an economically advantageous living experience. 

Key Factors Contributing to Toledo's Affordability:

  • Affordable Housing: Toledo boasts housing costs that are approximately 50% lower than the national average, providing an array of affordable living options for residents.
  • Budget-Friendly Daily Expenses: The city's cost of living stands at an impressive 16% lower than the national average, contributing to reduced everyday expenses for its residents.
  • Access to Employment Hubs: Situated within driving distance of major Great Lakes cities like Detroit and Cleveland, Toledo offers residents access to diverse employment opportunities and economic prospects.

Unique Offerings and Attractions in Toledo:

  • Glass Industry Heritage: Visitors can explore Toledo's rich glass-making history at attractions like the Toledo Museum of Art's Glass Pavilion and the Libbey Glass Outlet.
  • Riverfront Charm: The Maumee River flows through the heart of Toledo, offering scenic riverfront views and a range of recreational activities.
  • Cultural Experiences: Toledo hosts various cultural events and festivals, like the annual Art on the Mall and the Toledo Zoo's Lights Before Christmas.

City # 8 - Shreveport, Louisiana

Nestled in the heart of Louisiana's charming landscape, Shreveport captivates residents and visitors with its unique blend of affordability and Southern allure. With a cost of living that stands at a mere 2% higher than the state average and a remarkable 7% lower than the national average, Shreveport beckons individuals and families seeking a budget-friendly yet comfortable living experience. However, despite Shreveport’s ideal location, the city has a higher crime rate than most of our other affordable cities listed. Those considering a move should consider this.

Key Factors Contributing to Shreveport's Affordability:

  • Affordable Housing: Shreveport offers housing costs that are approximately 27% cheaper than the U.S. average, providing a wide range of affordable living options.
  • Cost-Effective Utilities: The city's utility prices present another financial advantage, being about 13% less expensive than the national average, contributing to reduced living costs.
  • Southern Hospitality: Shreveport's warm and inviting atmosphere adds to its appeal, with a rich cultural tapestry and many community events.

Unique Offerings and Attractions in Shreveport:

  • Riverfront Entertainment: The Red River flows through Shreveport, offering opportunities for riverfront strolls and various recreational activities.
  • Historical Landmarks: History enthusiasts can explore landmarks like the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum and the Confederate Navy Yard.
  • Casinos and Entertainment: Shreveport's vibrant casino scene and a calendar full of events provide residents and visitors with exciting entertainment options.

Comparing Costs: Affordability Showdown Amongst America's Cities

As the pursuit of affordable living gains momentum nationwide, prospective residents seek cities that strike the perfect balance between cost-effectiveness and quality of life. In our quest to unearth the most budget-friendly cities in the U.S., we have explored eight distinctive destinations—McAllen, Texas; Harlingen, Texas; Kalamazoo, Michigan; Memphis, Tennessee;  Wichita Falls, Texas; Jonesboro, Arkansas; Toledo, Ohio; and Shreveport, Louisiana—each celebrated for its affordability. 

Now, let's dive deeper into the financial realm and compare crucial living expenses such as housing, transportation, utilities, and groceries, to discern which city offers the most cost-effective and rewarding living experience. 

Housing/ Home PriceTransportation/ Gallon of GasUtilitiesMedian Household Income
McAllen, Texas$266,383$2.90$191.49/ month$52,422
Harlingen, Texas$274,631$3.46$194.71/ month$46,507
Kalamazoo, Michigan$259,015$3.61$172.32/ month$44,296
Memphis, Tennessee$149,639$3.13$182.00/ month$32,285
Wichita Falls, Texas$402,970$3.48$204.18/ month$50,856
Jonesboro, Arkansas$338,516$3.30$156.65/ month$48,901
Toledo, Ohio$112,544$2.95$280.29/month$41,671
Shreveport, Louisiana$323,804$3.52$139.63/ month$41,782

Person riding a bike in an affordable city

Pros and Cons of Living in Affordable Cities

When it comes to choosing where to live, affordability often emerges as a key consideration. However, what constitutes "affordable" varies greatly from person to person, influenced by factors such as income, lifestyle preferences, and family needs. The cities we explored—McAllen, Harlingen, Kalamazoo, Memphis, Wichita Falls, Jonesboro, Toledo, and Shreveport—each offer unique advantages in terms of cost-effectiveness, making them appealing options for budget-conscious individuals and families.

Benefits of Choosing an Affordable City:

  • Lower Cost of Living: Affordable cities typically present reduced expenses in housing, utilities, transportation, and daily necessities, allowing residents to stretch their budgets further.
  • Enhanced Quality of Life: Reduced financial stress and more disposable income can lead to an improved quality of life, with more opportunities for leisure, savings, and investment.
  • Access to Amenities: Affordable cities can still provide access to essential amenities, including schools, healthcare facilities, and recreational areas.

Drawbacks and Concerns:

  • Crime Rates: Low cost of living and higher crime rates in some areas can be correlated. It's crucial to research crime statistics and safety measures before deciding.
  • Job Market: While some affordable cities offer economic opportunities, others may have limited job markets, making career prospects a consideration.
  • Infrastructure and Development: Certain affordable cities may have outdated infrastructure and limited development, impacting services and overall convenience.

Misconceptions and Considerations of Living in an Affordable City:

  • Subjectivity of Affordability: What may be affordable for one individual might not be the same for another. It's essential to analyze personal finances and lifestyle requirements when evaluating affordability.
  • Doing Your Homework: While affordability is vital, it shouldn't be the sole factor when choosing a city. Researching crime rates, job opportunities, educational institutions, and healthcare facilities is essential to making an informed decision.
  • Balancing Trade-Offs: Living in an affordable city might involve trade-offs regarding access to certain amenities or job opportunities, necessitating a careful evaluation of priorities.

Ultimately, living in an affordable city requires careful consideration of individual circumstances, preferences, and long-term goals. By weighing the pros and cons and conducting thorough research, individuals can find a city that aligns with their financial objectives and provides a fulfilling living experience.

Exploring the Least Expensive Cities in the U.S.

In our journey to uncover budget-friendly havens across the United States, we have ventured into eight distinct cities—McAllen and Harlingen in Texas, Kalamazoo in Michigan, Memphis in Tennessee, Wichita Falls in Texas, Jonesboro in Arkansas, Toledo in Ohio, and Shreveport in Louisiana. Each of these cities offers its unique charm and affordability, boasting a lower cost of living compared to the national average. 

From affordable housing to cost-effective utilities and transportation, these cities present enticing opportunities for living inexpensively in the U.S.

As you contemplate your next chapter, consider these affordable cities and others that align with your preferences and financial goals. Embrace the possibility of an enriched and fulfilling lifestyle without stretching your budget too thin or making it challenging to manage your personal finances

Whether it's the southern hospitality of Harlingen, the cultural scene of Memphis, or the industrial charm of Toledo, each city has its allure and cost-effective advantages waiting to be explored. 

*The content on this page provides general consumer information or tips. It is not financial advice or guidance. Each person’s circumstances are unique. The Cash Store may update this information periodically. This information may also include links or references to third-party resources or content. We do not endorse the third-party or guarantee the accuracy of this third-party information. There may be other resources that also serve your needs. 

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